President Marcelo and the Prime Minister Antonio Costa have added their voices to a national outcry today over racist abuse aimed at black FC Porto player Moussa Marega, who walked off the field after hearing monkey chants from the crowd.
Costa said the incident was “unacceptable” and urged police and soccer authorities to make an example of those responsible by dealing out tough punishment. Costa also reinforced his view on his Twitter account, stating that “all and any acts of racism are a crime and are intolerable.”
“No human being should be subjected to this humiliation,” wrote Costa, whose father was from Mozambique. “We cannot just stand by” he added.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa threw his opinion into the ring also, saying that he “vehemently condemns any display of racism. Portugal’s Constitution very clearly condemns racism, as well as any other forms of xenophobia and discrimination,” he said.
Moussa Marega, a striker from Mali, was visibly angered by monkey noises targeting him after he scored Porto’s second goal in a 2-1 win at Guimarães in the Portuguese league on Sunday. Several Porto and opposition players attempted to dissuade him from walking off the field in the 71st minute, but he demanded to be substituted. Marega called out the “idiots” who went to the stadium to shout racist insults, condemning this example of toxic football fan behaviour.
He also lashed out at the referee, who gave Marega a yellow card, apparently for his refusal to continue playing. He said the referee should have better understood his situation, and taken his side in the face of the insults.
The dramatic scenes as Marega pulled away from his teammates and stormed off the field due to the racist behaviour of many individuals in the crowd is rather unprecedented in Portugal’s football scene. The country has not witnessed the growth of far-right political parties or movements to the same extent as elsewhere in Europe in recent years. Television channels and radio stations on Monday dedicated phone-in programs to the incident, asking people to talk discuss their own personal experiences.
This was the latest racist incident to tarnish European football, despite widespread condemnation and efforts to put a stop to it from officials involved in the game and in keeping public order.
Porto coach Sergio Conceicao said he and his club felt “outraged” by the racism, adding that the monkey chants began during the pre-game warm-up. “We are a family, whatever our nationality, skin colour, height, hair colour,” he said. “What happened here was pitiful.”
FC Porto released statement standing by Marega, adding it “was compelled to take drastic action” after repeated racist slurs during the game. The club said the insults were “a low point in the recent history of Portuguese football and must be punished appropriately.”
The Portuguese league has criticized the behaviour of some fans in the stadium, calling it a “shame to football and human dignity.” It said in a statement that Marega “could no longer bear the insults targeted at him and chose to leave the game.”
The league will do everything in its power to impose punishments and stamp out racism, the statement said.
Portuguese police said in a statement they were not immediately able to identify who began hurling the abuse at Marega inside the stadium because of the large crowd. However, officers are said to be investigating today, reportedly including sifting through closed-circuit TV images taken inside the stadium.
The government handles such behaviour very seriously, racist insults and threats carry a prison sentence of up to five years in prison.